Today being a travel day for the Capitals, the media caught up to coach Barry Trotz at the team hotel in Tampa Bay. There, most of the questions surrounded Wednesday’s imminent Game Seven against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Final.
The deciding game of this series will be Washington’s first Game Seven since last year’s heart-wrenching loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins. The 2-0 defeat ended the season and closed the two-year window that many around the team had admitted was their best shot at competing for a Stanley Cup. It would be human nature to go back and analyze the game’s minutia to look for anything to carry into the future.
Trotz, however, seems to be focusing big-picture. When asked if he learned a lesson from last year’s Game Seven against the Penguins, Trotz had a sassy response.
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) May 22, 2018
Trotz’s answer comes at the 5:48 mark.
After giving it some thought, Trotz responded responded bluntly, “Yeah, win.” He then looked at the reporter, shrugged his shoulders, raised his eyebrows.
The Caps’ bench boss also talked about the team’s physicality in Game Six, Alex Ovechkin’s bounce-back season, and the promised land that lies ahead of a victory for either team.
Washington set the tone physically last night, outhitting the Lightning 39-19. Trotz was quick to point out that all three series thus far have been grinding on the teams involved.
“It doesn’t matter what series, we’ve been fairly physical in all the series,” he said. “The first series was that way, the second series was that way, and this series hasn’t been any different.”
Trotz, however, doesn’t see big hits as the sole marker of the Caps’ play when the team is at its best.
“When we’re at our best is when we’re moving our feet, when we’re playing on the puck, when we’re pressuring the puck,” he said. “We’ve got lots of detail in our game and we’ve got lots of pace in our game.”
If the Capitals are going to move on in the playoffs, they’ll need Ovechkin to play with just as much energy as he did Monday night. While many noticed an uptick in production from the Capitals’ captain this season, Trotz noticed a shift in his motivation, one that could carry into Wednesday’s game.
“He had a bit of an off year last year, and he was motivated to show everyone that he is still a great player in this league,” he said. “I think he’s had one of his more consistent years that he’s had in some time.”
Ovechkin has certainly shown near-superhuman longevity and consistency in his career, but his detractors tend to point out the obvious — he doesn’t have a Cup. It may be difficult to ignore the consequences of Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Final, for both Ovechkin and the rest of the team. But Trotz’s mentality is focused on the task at hand.
“You don’t have to say anything, everybody knows about this game,” he said. “We’re going to try to earn the opportunity to continue to play. That’s what we’ve said when we started the year, when these playoffs started. We’re just going to try to continue to play.”
That opportunity will come Wednesday night against the Lightning at 8 PM. Win, the Caps will play in the Stanley Cup Final for the second time in franchise history. Lose, they go home and squander what could be the final deep run in the Ovechkin Era.
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